Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to Have Fun at Lunch (The Most Important Thirty Minutes You'll Ever Have!)

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Lucy: Okay—get your hunger on because lunch is that precious half hour when you can chill and hang with the besties, not to mention fuel up for those afternoon classes.

CeCee: Or a study hall if you have an upcoming quiz or test!

Lucy: Okay, right, C.! Whatev.

Lucy and CeCee: Lunch is a social reprieve that should be savored and enjoyed. To eke out maximum benefits, adhere to the following.

L&C’s How to Munch at Lunch

The Dreaded Hot-Lunch Line

Time is precious, and negotiating your way through the swarming hot-lunch line takes some skill. The best way to buy hot lunch is to walk purposefully to the end of the line and maintain position. Beware of cutters who may have a ruse, such as acting like they forgot a fork or straw. Usually they are wormy little sixth graders, so don’t be afraid to tell them to buzz off! You may think it best to wait for the line to die down, but don’t! By that time, the food goes from grotesque to downright vomitous. (Just sayin’!)

Not all entrees induce the lunch flu, but be cautious of certain food items. Anything with a catchy name like “Fiesta Fajitas” or “Burger Bangers” should be sized up with suspicion. Also, dodge the mystery meat whenever possible. This is anything containing meat product that can’t easily be identified with the naked eye. It’s usually topped off with some sort of gravy-like sauce so as to conceal its identity. Hence, the name. Also, stay away from the pizza altogether, as it’s riddled with mystery meat droppings and altogether nast.

Where to Sit

Where to sit in the middle school cafeteria is a strategic chess move that can be executed with ease. Just face the fact that cliques are the number-one unspoken rule of the lunchroom. (If you don’t already know, a clique is a self-segregating group that hangs and eats together. They were around when your grandparents went to school, and they’ll be around when your grandchildren go to school. A few common ones throughout the ages are preppies, geeks, punks, emos, oddballs, hipsters, VIP popular kids, and wannabes.)

Now, the good news is you can click outside your clique. You just have to know which ones are flexible and which are not. For example, the trinity of Madison Heights royalty—Kandi, Kassi, and Kalli—is one grub ’n’ snub club that isn’t accepting new members. One can tell this by their guarded body language that screams “Admire—then expire!” when you walk by their reserved VIP table waaaaaay in back of the lunchroom.

On the flip side, most cliques love to meet and talk with new people, so don’t be shy! If you’re new and don’t want to eat your cheese puffs solo, case the caf for a friendly looking group or just take out a book or magazine and chill. If you look confident and comfortable with yourself, someone is bound to join in. (Quick Tip: While you’re sitting there by yourself, feign popularity by pretending to wave at random people. It works!)

The upshot is finding a crowd to chow with definitely gets easier with time. Before you know it, you will have your own little table surrounded by your best besties, eating the mystery meat du jour!

Convo Starters
Don’t know what to gab about while you grub? Try these hot topics:

Can you believe that English project?
Are Uggs really a good look?
Hottiest hotties
Makeup/breakup/shakeup of the week
“I know, right?,” “That’s so random,” “24/7,” Just sayin’,” “It’s all good,” and other phrases that should be banned
Team Edward vs. Team Jacob
The virtues of headbands
Today’s cute math substitute
Yesterday’s scary science substitute
What teachers really talk about in the lunchroom

Beware: Try to avoid food fights. Some fun seekers might try to instigate, but it’s ultra-immature and could ruin your gear.

Helpful Hint: No matter how tempting it is to food bash, always be nice to the “lunch ladies,” and never insult the food while in earshot. They’re the hardworking women who put the mystery in mystery meat and have hairnets, oversized glasses, and large moles. Always be polite, and try to learn their names (usually something like Edith or Joyce). You may just get an extra big helping of mystery meat goulash!

Dear Diary,

The ladies served up some major calamity casserole at lunch today! And the casserole’s name is Josh! I don’t care what Lucy says—that kid is nothing but trouble! It’s so her to fall for the walking jock cliché (i.e., the backward baseball hat, the menacing sports jersey, the cocky strut, and of course, the one-syllable J name). Too bad it’s J for j-e-r-k. How do I know this? Because Ms. Clark summoned me today to discuss tutoring him after school. Apparently, his grades aren’t all that, and he needs “major intervention” because he’s on a behavior permit. (She let it slip that he has a little habit of beating up nerds, and this is his third school.)

So, while I’m telling Lucy her new crush is a swirlie-giving, ear-flipping, towel-snapping bully—or worse—a potential Dark Lord with truly evil intentions (a doppelganger, perhaps?), she just smiles and gushes, not at all bothered by the fact that he’s totally cuddling up to Kandi Klass in back of the lunchroom. I don’t mean to Gandalfenize, but when will she see the truth will set her free? It’s like she’s under some charm spell from an evil wizard or something. Why can’t she just settle for Lyle Whitehurst, who’s had fuzzy feelings for her since kindergarten? Okay, maybe he’s an überdork, but at least he’s a dork with a brain!

Anyway, Lucy seemed relieved when I told her I was way too involved with the Madison Messenger to possibly tutor Josh the Jerk. She then went on and on about her horoscope and Destiny Stars’s prediction for her flourishing love life and how she and Josh are “meant to be.” That’s when I reminded Lucy that her astro-reading habit is merely a minion’s way of claiming false success without claiming failure—which she promptly ignored.

G/G—Ms. Horowitz says pop quiz in two minutes. 

PS Help! I can’t find my magical Blistex and feel so unprotected without it. I have such very little armor as it is, and I don’t want my lips to surrender to the spell of chappiness. Fraggy pucker nuts! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mood and Tone: A Lesson in Author's Style

Teaching tweens the nuances of mood and tone can be a challenge.  The terms are often interchangeable i.e., misused, and in a middle schooler's mind, they are sort of formless and abstract.  Yet, mood and tone are a very powerful literary concept.  They are literally what give text its "texture."

Enter my go-to visual Mood/Tone guy:

As the little guy above illustrates, the drive-through version of tone is the author's attitude toward the subject, and mood is the feeling of the reader.

Specifically, to teach tone, I refer to the anti-phony Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye:

  • "All morons hate it when you call them a moron.
  • “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”
  • “Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”
Holden’s tone is bitterly sarcastic and critical as he ruminates on the nature of things and the hypocrisy of people.  Salinger's tone is achieved through word choice.

Some words used to identify tone could be:
  1. Anxious
  2. Bold
  3. Confrontational
  4. Curious
  5. Dismissive
  6. Encouraging
  7. Hip
  8. Hopeful
  9. Open
  10. Overbearing
  11. Passionate
  12. Sarcastic
  13. Smarmy
  14. Suspicious
  15. Uncouth
  16. Upbeat
  17. Urbane
  18. Wisecracking
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

To teach mood, I present Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken":

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The gloomy, somber mood belies a voice and feeling of regret.  The speaker took the road less traveled, but wishes he could have traveled both.  The reader is left with the grave, somewhat melancholic fact that we only have one life to live, and choice is everything.

Some words used to identify mood could be:
  1. Alarming
  2. Brooding
  3. Buoyant
  4. Comical
  5. Confining
  6. Cool
  7. Dark
  8. Fantastical
  9. Hopeful
  10. Light
  11. Melancholy
  12. Ominous
  13. Oppressive
  14. Relaxed
  15. Sexy
  16. Spooky
  17. Suspenseful
  18. Warm

So forge ahead.  Demystify mood and tone, and teach author's style with aplomb.  Your students will catch on in no time, hopefully eager to hone their own writing style.

For more classroom activities and lessons on mood/tone and other literary concepts, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How to Snag a Hottie in Time for Valentine's Day by Lucy and CeCee

Okay, let's be honest.  No one wants to fly solo on the day that shall be nameless.  But the clock is a ticking.  So if you need a sweetie for the Valentine's Day Dance or just for general appearances (oops, we said it!) - here are some quick tips...  

Find a good candidate starting with someone who likes you for you. Other quality traits to look for in a guy are sweet, funny, and genuine. And let’s face it: cute doesn’t hurt, either. Stay away from boys who ego trip or only think about themselves.

When talking to him the first few times, you may be a little nervous. If so, ask him questions about himself or his classes. Here are some good questions to ask:

§  What are you listening to on your iPod?
§  Do you have (name a teacher)? How is your project coming along?
§  Are you going to the football game on Friday?
§  Do you know what time the bell rings?

Try to be friends first and get to know him in a casual setting. This will make the going-out stuff less awkward.

If you want to ask a guy out, approach him when he’s alone—not when he’s hanging with “the guys” and absolutely not when he’s talking with another girl. If the coast is clear, pop a breath mint, take a deep breath, and go for it!

Do a little recon investigation, and find out what your dude is into. If he likes sports, talk about a local or state team; if he likes music, chat up tunes and bands.

Don’t talk too much about yourself. For most guys, this is a turnoff.

If he makes a joke, laugh. Guys like to think they belong on Comedy Central.

If you’re apt to blush when you gush, don’t fret. Most guys think this is cute.

Make signs that you like him and are interested by smiling, making eye contact, lightly touching his arm, and the like.

It sounds dorky, but practice talking to your crush in the mirror. When the time comes, you’ll be a silver-tongued smoothie.

Helpful Hint #1: Don’t be a psycho-stalker.  Guys are pretty simple to figure out. If they like you, you’ll know it. If they don’t, move on.

Helpful Hint #2: Don’t have a friend tell his friend to tell his friend that you like him. Do your love work yourself! It shows confidence!

 Happy Valentine's Day!!!
 Lucy & CeCee

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School Featured!!

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School is featured this month in Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids.  Check out this great tween magazine that highlights author interviews, reviews, excerpts, and more.

An Odyssey for the New Year

Every New Year begins a new journey.  An odyssey, if you will, where we aspire to reach a destination of goals, resolutions, and ambitions.  Of course there are always deterrents.  Sometimes monsters as ferociously daunting as Scylla or Charybdis from Homer’s Odyssey obstruct our path.  But we are resolute, steadfastly brave and courageous as we face down our demons, just as Odysseus was in trying to reach his destination of Ithaca - home to his beloved Penelope and Telemachus.

This semester I will be undertaking an odyssey of my own, as I teach Homer’s epic.  After a quick invocation to the literary muse, I review the following epic conventions, pleasantly surprised as my students eagerly take notes and ask clarifying questions.  

  • The Epic Hero
  • Lengthy Narrative
  • Lofty Tone and Style
  • Epic Similes
  • Catalogs/Genealogies
  • Supernatural Involvement
  • Invocation
  • In Medias Res
  • Voyage Across the Sea
  • Trip to the Underworld
  • Epic Battles

At first, I’m bewildered how much they dig Homer’s interminable tome; yet, a quick analysis reveals the striking similarities they have with Odysseus and the epic genre itself.  Just like Odysseus, tweens are heroes of their own story.  Getting through a day of middle school might seem like a trip to the Underworld; they certainly have their own epic battles of drama to fight; and don’t even get me started on their plights of temptation.  But like Odysseus, they persevere (with a little help from the gods of course).  And in the end, they are winning the contest to prove their identity and retake their own throne, hopefully having grown in wisdom, judgment, and self-control.

As adults, the theme of The Odyssey retains its relevance as well.  Maybe we haven’t even reached our own Ithaca yet, but we’re still traveling and battling, island after island.  And that’s okay because as we know by now, life isn’t about the destination - it’s about the journey.  It’s our odyssey – monsters, goddesses, and all.

For classroom activities and lessons on The Odyssey and other classics, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers: